Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.
Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago. – Goodreads
Although I read plenty of paranormal books, mermaids are one creature that never quite caught my interest. Many mermaid books seem fun, but after having studied Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” a few years ago, I felt I needed a darker edge in my YA introduction to them. So, I waited and Elizabeth Fama’s Monstrous Beauty seemed to fit the description. The verdict? Way to set the bar, Elizabeth Fama!
Elizabeth Fama’s prose is beautiful and it was the main highlight of Monstrous Beauty for me. I am envious of her talent and the way she made her book atmospheric with her poetic use of words. She had seamless transitions between the alternating time periods and the right amount of an eerie undercurrent throughout. The two main characters, Syrenka and Hester, were very different from each other but their stories came together in a satisfying way. I must admit that I was partial to Syrenka’s chapters, as she was such a layered and mysterious character, and, HELLO, a mermaid, but Hester grew on me somewhat as the story progressed.
The only real issue I found with Monstrous Beauty was the mystery. Though Elizabeth Fama did a great job transitioning between the past and the present, it was too easy for me to piece together all of the details and I found it frustrating when Hester didn’t do the same. If it wasn’t for that predictability, I think this would have been rated higher for me.
All that said, Elizabeth Fama has a beautiful and haunting book in Monstrous Beauty and I appreciate the darkness she offered for my first YA mermaid read.
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